How Can You Recognize A Migraine Headache?

One of the commonest migraine symptoms is an intense throbbing pain which is normally located on one side of the head close to the area of the temple. Migraines, unlike normal headaches, are also often accompanied by additional symptoms which include sensitivity to noise and light, nausea and sometimes vomiting.

Migraines are fairly common and affect about one in ten people in America, or over 28 million Americans. They are also far more commonly experienced by women rather than men (about three times as many women suffer from migraine) and can also be sse occasionally in children.

Despite the fact that migraine headaches are so common and frequently very painful with an attack lasting anywhere from a few hours to two or three days, only roughly half of all sufferers ever consult their doctor and the remainder elect to suffer in silence.

These headaches had long been thought to be were the result of a of dilation of the blood vessels in the head but, despite the fact that there is no general consensus, medical opinion appears to be moving away from this theory in favor of a genetic cause for this condition. It is now believed that migraine headaches are produced by the interaction of brain chemicals like serotonin with the nerve cells. Currently however the truth is that we really do not know what cause a migraine headache.

There are in fact two types of migraine, the first of which is called ‘classical migraine’and is characterized by an accompanying ‘aura’. In this case the term ‘aura’ refers to visual light effects which are experienced just prior to the arrival of a headache including things like bright light spots and flashing lights. In some cases a complete loss of vision can be experienced for some minutes before the onset of the headache.

The second form of the condition is a migraine with no ‘aura’.

Just as we do not know what causes a migraine headache, we also have little idea about exactly what gives rise to an attack, though there are some factors which do seem likely to trigger an attack in sufferers. For example, getting too much sleep appears to be one factor, as does skipping meals or eating particular foods such as cheese.

Hormonal factors are also thought to influence both the onset and severity of attacks and one piece of evidence for this is the higher incidence of migraines among women. In part this is thought to be because of the effect of estrogen on the blood vessels and some studies have noted that there is a link between the contraceptive pill (containing estrogen) and migraines.

However, just to confuse matters studies have also demonstrated that simple everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs can trigger a migraine attack, as can exposure to loud noises, cold and heat, flashing lights and occasionally stress.

Luckily, there are a number of migraine medicines available today, though no one treatment has proved to be really effective in all cases. One thing which we do know though is that over-the-counter medicines are rarely effective and, if you are unlucky enough to suffer from migraines, then you are best advised to ask your doctor for help in finding a solution which works for you.

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